Charlie Rivel

Josep Andreu i Lasserre (April 23, 1896 – July 26, 1983), best known as Charlie Rivel, was an internationally known Spanish circus clown. He was born in Cubelles (Barcelona, Spain). His parents Pere Andreu Pausas (Spanish) and Marie-Louise Lasarre (French) were circus artists as well.

Charlie Rivel was Europe’s most famous and popular clown. His costume trademark was a long red jersey that had accidentally been stretched in the laundry. A performance at the Grona Lunds Tivoli in Stockholm in 1979 marked his 80th year in show business. His parents were street performers who traveled throughout Europe and by the time Charlie was two, he was appearing in the family’s act. By the time he was six, he was performing a head-balancing act with his sister who was one year younger.He later formed the acrobatic group Los Rivels with his brothers Polo Rivel and René Rivel. He took his artistic first name from Charlie Chaplin, whom he encountered in 1910.

Charlie Rivel’s clown character had a distinctive square nose. A famous poster by Vang Rasmussen shows Charlie with his head tilted back and a blue bird perched on his square nose. The poster was originally created for Charlie’s appearance with the Cirkus Schumann in 1967 and was used by other shows for subsequent appearances by the clown. The poster was the artist’s favorite. It appears on the cover of 100 years of Circus Posters by Jack Rennert and is included in The Book of Clowns by George Speaight.

Charlie Rivel, 1967, performing his act

Charlie Rivel, 1967, performing his act

At the start of the Second World War, he discovered his definitive routine, featuring a chair, a guitar, and a long jersey. During the war, he stayed two years in Nazi Germany where a film (Akrobat schö-ö-ö-n, 1943) about his life was produced. The theater play by Gerard Vàzquez Uuuuh! is based on that time.

In 1954 he returned to Barcelona where he became the star of Circo Price. In 1971, he appeared in Federico Fellini‘s film Clowns.

In Cubelles a Museum is dedicated to him, the Charlie Rivel Hall

There is also a park dedicated to him in Vigo in the province of Pontevedra, Spain.

Charlie Rivel wrote an autobiography titled Poor Clown. His legacy lives on. He taught his children to be circus performers, and his sons clowned using the name Charlivels.

Charlie Rivel was inducted into the 1999 Clown Hall of Fame.

Charlie Rivel quotes

Every human being is a clown but only few have the courage to show it.